BYU-Idaho (Rexburg, ID) is an independent sister campus of Brigham Young University (Provo, UT). In 2001, when Kort Black, server manage for BYU-Idaho, charted the university's storage growth for the past several years, he discovered an alarming consistency. The amount of data needing to be backed up had essentially doubled each year - from less than 10 GB in 1995 to more than 600 GB in 2001. With 1.2 TB projected for 2002, Black convinced the institution to purchase an enterprise-class tape library.
AIT Bridges The Generation Gap
In evaluating capabilities it wanted in a highly scalable tape library, Black's team began at the core - the drives and media. In discussions with users of various tape technologies, the most consistently favorable responses came from adopters of AIT (advanced intelligent tape). "We stumbled across AIT," Black admits. "We were skeptical until we started talking to users because the tape didn't seem viable. You're basically just using 8-millimeter camcorder tapes. But, users confirmed that they hadn't had to deal with any issues with drives going offline or tapes failing to load or eject. They also mentioned improved restore times because of the dual-spool technology."
Next, the server management group looked at automated tape libraries designed to use AIT drives and media. For sheer capacity and scalability, a fairly obvious choice was the Spectra Logic Gator 64000. Scalable up to 640 slots and 32 tape drives, the 64000 offers 64 TB native and 166.4 compressed capacity using AIT-3 cartridges.
Black admits that, for an institution that just recently passed the 1 TB threshold, 64 TB native capacity is overkill. Nonetheless, when Black considers BYU-Idaho's 100% annual data growth rate extended over the next several years, he sees 640 TB by 2011. Sony's blueprint for future generations of AIT gave him - and the university - confidence that the purchase of the Spectra Logic 64000 in early 2001 would be its last tape library purchase for eight years. "We factored in Sony's ability to live up to its blueprint for development. AIT-2 came out when they said it would. So did AIT-3," Black says. "If the next generations follow as planned, we can maintain a six-week retention period without running out of space on the 64000 until 2009. When we buy servers, we expect them to have only a two- or three-year life expectancy. Having a piece of hardware in the data center that will last eight years is truly exciting."